Ten months into fatherhood, Ryan Ledson doesn’t know how he ever got by without his son in his life.
The now 26-year-old and his partner Lucy – known for playing Bethany Platt in Coronation Street – announced last September they were set to become first-time parents.
Speaking to the press a month later, the North End midfielder joked he’d be ‘winging’ life as a dad, and then along came Sonny in January, who Ryan often affectionately refers to on social media as his ‘bestie’.
Ryan said: “The baby is nearly ten months old now. He’s getting his teeth through; he’s teething and crawling around so you can’t keep your eyes off him,” he laughed.
“At times it still feels a little bit weird being a dad because I’m only a young lad, aren’t I? But I’m really enjoying it.
“Sometimes I wonder what I ever did without him. I’ve got no time on my hands now and I can’t get a minute to sit down, especially when I get home, but I wouldn’t change it.
“I’m really enjoying it, and he’s as good as gold.”
With the North End midfielder’s schedule relentless – such is the Championship – and Lucy also now back at work, Sonny has started going to nursery a couple of days a week, which he seems to be loving so far.
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Dropping him off and picking him up has become part of Ryan’s daily routine now, which is something he’s not previously been used to, nor is the idea of going home and having to wait until the final hour of his evening to have some rest.
Ryan said: “Everyone who’s a parent knows what it’s like; it’s hard work.
“I probably just used to get home from training and sit on the couch all afternoon and have a nap or whatever. That’s well out of the window now!
“It’s quite a chilled household though to be honest with you because me and Lucy just get on really well and we work together.
“My mum and dad are a massive help, and Lucy’s mum and dad aren’t far away either so they’ve been quality too.
“Sometimes they’ll pick him up from nursery or mind him for the night if we get to go out. The balance is really good.”
Saturdays are, of course, the busiest days of all for PNE’s No.18, who – when playing at Deepdale – has the support of his son in the crowd.
His parents never tend to miss a match, and his friends are also often there to cheer him on, but Sonny isn’t quite yet aware of what his dad does.
But just having him there in the crowd adds something different for Ryan.
“To have all your family there is obviously brilliant,” he said.
“No matter whether you win, lose, or draw, you become a dad again after the game.
“Football comes second and he comes first, and it’s probably a good way for me to take my mind off things.
“At the end of the day, you’re a dad, and you sacrifice your life for him to make sure he’s got the best.”
Stability for any football player can be hugely important and Ryan certainly has that, having been with North End for five years, with at least another year and a half to come.
Despite being from Liverpool, at the time of his arrival at Deepdale the midfielder had been down south for a number of years.
Now back up north, though, just around a 40-minute trip to the training ground and fully embraced in life as a Lilywhite, Ryan is more than settled.
He said: “It’s sort of a perfect club for me really. Obviously, I did live away for a bit, but then coming up to Preston meant that I could live at home.
“I bought my house a few years ago now and I’ve got my mum, my dad, my sister, and all my family around me.
“It’s a perfect club for me and I’m enjoying my football as well.
“It’s a club that I’ve been at for a long time now and a club that I want to stay at for even longer.”
During his time with North End, the tenacious midfielder has racked up more than 150 appearances, contributing to a total of just over 275 in club football.
Those other games, aside from one with Everton, came during spells with Cambridge United on loan and then permanently with Oxford United.
Making the move to the former at the age of just 18, he could easily have looked like a fish out of water, but instead grasped the opportunity and laid the foundations for the career he’s gone on to have.
He explained: “I lived in a hotel for three months on my own after joining Cambridge, and then six of us moved into a house from January until the end of the season. That was a case of living with people that you don’t really know and then getting to know them.
“I then went to Oxford for two years and I was down there basically living on my own as well. It made me grow up really.
“I feel like I’m quite mature for my age. I’ve only just turned 26 and I feel like it was good to live away and experience that. It just makes you appreciate home a bit more.
“Football wise, at that stage I just needed to go and play, so I just went.
“Those few years between the ages of about 18 and 20, I played over a hundred games in League Two and League One. That’s what makes you into a player, I think.”